Are you ready for some football? Well after a very short winter break, the USF football team has been back to work and is ready to put the past behind them as they prepare for the upcoming 2009 season.
The 2008 season saw the Bulls start off 5-0 with a #10 ranking, only to suffer through a stretch where they lost 5 of the last 7 regular season games. The Bulls still made a fourth straight bowl appearance where they easily beat Memphis 45-13 in the inaugural MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl to finish 8-5. Now, the Bulls are back with a new attitude and ready for one of the most important times of the year in college football, the off season, which officially began last month.
"What makes a good football player a great football player is the work he puts into the off-season," said USF strength Coach Ronnie McKeefery. "The off-season is all about improving a player's strength and conditioning."
The Bulls train year round, but there is an added emphasis on the off-season conditioning program and the whole winter strength & conditioning program is considered the backbone of the team.
"This is my time of the year," said McKeefery. "We prepare year round, but in the winter were really able to develop both the physical and the mental aspects that are going to be needed to be successful during the season."
USF's winter conditioning program is a combination of strength and conditioning and is constantly evolving with newer techniques, and equipment like the new interactive video record board that allows current players to compare their performance against their teammates and former USF all-time greats.
"Training wise we're always changing things up, but there haven't been any major program changes this year, except for the adding another day of agility training," said McKeefery.
This year the Bulls work out in the morning and do agility conditioning in the afternoon. The team is broken into 4 lifting groups that start at 6:30am and go every hour until 9:30. The groups are broken up depending on class schedule, and this is done for several reasons; So that the players can get a morning work-out in and then the staff knows they're up and can go to class afterwards. Also by having the agility conditioning in the afternoon, the same time the team practices during the spring, will help the them get acclimated to the weather.
"It's not that different. We're always going to work on strength, power, speed, agility, coordination, all the fun stuff," said McKeefery. "We still get at it."
It's all about conditioning
The conditioning part is basically made up of agilities skills that are very difficult from both a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint. The players can count on it, the veterans have gone through it, and it's almost a rite of passage for the young guys to go through it, and it helps the team to come together. As usual, this year has a whole crop of players who are going through it for the first time.
"It's always an eye opener," said McKeefery. "When we first started freshman linebacker Mike Lanaris told me the morning agility sessions are ‘as advertised."
This year the morning agility conditioning is on Friday and it begins at an early 5 a.m. start with the entire team participating in station drills which consist of speed, agility, footwork and reaction drills. The team goes from seven different drills in four minute intervals at a pace that not only improves their physical endurance, but their stamina and quickness as well.
"Our morning agility has become a staple of our program. When the guys are getting up and going at it at 5 a.m., it shows a level of dedication and discipline, which helps with the mental aspect of the game."
The conditioning program under McKeefery increases in intensity from the start to the beginning of spring practice. The team starts off working agilities once a week until signing day. After signing day the staff really wants to increase the team conditioning while preparing for spring ball and the sessions increase to three times a week.
"With spring ball starting in less than a month we wanted to get the guys in shape sooner."
In 2008 the staff moved up spring practice to before spring break, and will do the same this year with spring practice scheduled to begin on March 7th. Last year was a last minute change, but this year the staff has planned for it and has adjusted the conditioning program accordingly.
Check back later in the week with USFNation.com for the continuation of our inside look into the Bulls off-season strength and conditioning program.
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